Traditional conservation measures, such as local ‘Tabus' - areas periodically closed to fishing - have typically been the sole approach to fisheries management in the tropical western Pacific. A team of international experts is meeting in Albany this week to find out how effective these areas actually are in providing communities with long-term food security.
The synthesis workshop, organised by The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute researchers Jordan Goetze and Dr Tim Langlois is examining local conservation measures practised by Pacific Island communities. Historically, marine areas were set aside out of respect for the death of a chief, and conservation organisations operating in the region have built on these traditional methods by setting up locally managed marine areas and working with the local communities to manage vital fish stocks.
One of the most commonly employed tools is ‘Periodically Harvested Closures' which involve the opening of a closed marine area for local fishing events. This fish ‘bank' provides a ready supply of fish and invertebrates for special occasions, beneficial in the short-term but with the potential to create adverse effects, such as overharvesting, if not managed properly.
Until now, the science behind Periodically Harvested Closures has not been explored and conservation organisations have been unable to provide guidance on the duration of a closure versus the harvest.
Examining the data available, the team of international scientists will address a range of questions on the sustainability and conservation benefits of these closures to develop scientific recommendations. The intent is for local decision makers in Pacific Island countries to consider these recommendations and develop their own management regulations, balancing social needs with long-term food security and conservation objectives.
Embracing the sustainable theme, the experts will sleep in basic, dorm-style accommodation, while Fervor, a travelling pop up restaurant known for its unique approach to dining, will offer sustainable and foraged catering. Fervor will source local seafood, that might normally be passed over, and forage for local produce such as beach herbs, making for a unique workshop experience.
Chief Investigator, PhD candidate, Jordan Goetze, holds a similar ethos to food sustainability and later intends to collaborate with the company to promote sustainable seafood initiatives.
"In Australia we are spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood and as a consequence we are often very fussy," he said.
"Unfortunately, this means we tend to eat the large predatory species that are the most vulnerable to overfishing and often waste most of the fish by eating the fillets only. In contrast, Pacific Island communities rely on fish stocks to survive, consuming a much broader range of species and not wasting a single part of the fish. If prepared properly these alternate species and different parts can be just as delicious, we just need chefs like Paul Iskov from Fervor to show us how to cook them."
Jordan Goetze said the workshop represented an innovative approach to addressing global marine conservation and Albany, a town well regarded for its natural beauty and preservation of heritage, was an idyllic location for the international experts to come together.
"This project is so important as most Pacific Island communities rely on seafood to survive. Given Periodically Harvested Closures are often the only form of management, we need to know if they can conserve fish stocks and manage them effectively."
The group hopes to produce a research paper using the synthesised data by the completion of the workshop.
Jordan Goetze (UWA School of Plant Biology) (+61 4) 17 187 517
Dr Tim Langlois (UWA School of Plant Biology) (+61 4) 23 708 312
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716